Mismeasure of Success

94 St. John's L. Rev. 927 (2021)

11 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2020 Last revised: 14 Feb 2022

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 9, 2020


Women have been leaving BigLaw in big numbers for decades. The supposed fix for this is family leave policies that are designed to avoid penalizing women for spending time away from work. Until the values of large law firms change, however, more expansive family leave policies are unlikely to result in greater retention of women, and in fact, they have not. Because when women return to work after taking leave, the billable hour is still king. We continue to require women to put work ahead of all else to “measure up” to the traditionally male ideal rather than considering more traditionally so-called female priorities, like work-life balance, as an acceptable baseline for measuring success (feminist standpoint theory).

This essay explores the idea that the exodus of women from large law firms is a not necessarily a failure. Instead of constantly striving to adapt, women should re-think the significance of refusing to conform to the relentlessness of the billable hour and other outdated norms. Indeed, in the year 2020, work-life balance is no longer strictly a male or female issue: it is a value proposition. We should expect to see both women and men leaving BigLaw in search of a different lifestyle. That doesn’t mean that those lawyers will have failed. To the contrary, maybe it is the definition of “success” that needs adjusting.

Keywords: women, BigLaw, family leave, billable hour

Suggested Citation

Rubin Gomez, Alissa, Mismeasure of Success (May 9, 2020). 94 St. John's L. Rev. 927 (2021), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3666400

Alissa Rubin Gomez (Contact Author)

University of Houston Law Center ( email )

4604 Calhoun Road
Houston, TX 77204
United States

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